If I Go There Will Be Trouble….

December 5, 2013

with apologies to The Clash

Here’s a few names for you.  Richard Hatfield, Kim Campbell and Brian Mulroney.  What’s the significance you ask?  Well, One was flung out of power like a union rep in a Walmart, bringing about a one party legislature in New Brunswick, one learned from his example and skipped town before it happened to him and one got to take the blame and become the PM that saw her party flung out of power like the aforementioned union rep.  Say what you will about Mulroney but he could read the writing on the wall and decided that he wasn’t going to be another Dick Hatfield.  He’ll let Kim Campbell hold that honour instead and more power to her.

Which brings us to Prime Minister Harper, who, with a senate scandal around his neck that looks to get worse before it gets better and more importantly, before the election, may be thinking that Mulroney had the right idea.  Or so John Ivison says and I can see no reason to doubt him.  Like Mulroney, Harper has always been pretty good at reading the wind.  He’d be a fool if he’s not thinking that his political legacy could easily turn into being known as the second Kim Campbell, given recent bi-election results and the press that he and the CPC are getting.  I’m sure that he’s done many other things he’d prefer to be remembered for.  Besides Mike Duffy and the Rob and Doug Ford never-ending  train wreck are the most recognizable conservative faces right now and don’t look to be going away.  Entitled scam artists and substance abusing bullies don’t generate a lot of sympathy and will be remembered in 2015.  I’m pretty sure that Harper would like to be a distant memory by then.


Right to work… for less

October 31, 2013

As the Conservative Party of Canada skulks from Ottawa to the friendlier confines of their heartland for their party convention, right to work legislation is going to be one of the top items for discussion.

At its core, right to work legislation allows workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of union membership and paying union dues. It is promoted as freeing employees from the 50, 80, or 100 bucks they are “forced” to pay per month to their union, but it’s real intent is obvious: to starve the union of members and cash.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche from a Billy Bragg song, the power of a union is the power manifest in organizing workers together as a bargaining collective. Both union membership and union funds are necessary for workers to be reasonably represented. Workers negotiating as a group have greater power, which offsets the greater economic power of the employer.  Union dues, in turn, are needed for strike benefits, legal representation, contract negotiators, etc., as well as for union administration and staffing. It is a far from ideal system, but balanced adversity is manifested in other aspects of governance and jurisprudence and at least to this point is not the worst way to operate.

Union membership has been on a general decline in Canada for decades, a trend which would be worse if not for the union membership of the public sector where, as of 2012, membership is about 75% versus 17% in the private sector. The Conservative plan is nothing less than an attempt to further hasten the erosion of union protection for workers in Canada and it must be stopped. In future posts, I will look in greater detail what “right to work” has in store for us if implemented. (Hint, it’s not hard to find out; a variety of Republican-governed states are already experimenting for us.)


It’s Not the End of the World

October 30, 2013

His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself — that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

-George Orwell, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

To those of you thoughtful (or at least conscious) enough to recognize the process described above, you probably have asked the same question I have: How do people who, for the most part, seem outwardly rational and functioning members of society, believe some of the political or religious ideology that has been spoon-fed to them? Many of the ideas espoused by extremists of all stripes are demonstrably false, so how can people go on believing them?

As far back as 1956, behavioural scientists have published studies dealing with this question – that year, Leon Festinger published When Prophecy Fails, a book that described the reactions of individuals faced with the by now quite common phenomenon of the world continuing on without ending. The individuals were members of an apocalyptic cult who had given away all of their belongings and waited upon the figurative mountaintop for the end of the world, which never came. How did these people deal with the fact that their beliefs, and the actions that followed their beliefs, had been proven unequivocally incorrect? Surprisingly, the cult members’ beliefs intensified, and they began proselytizing even more fervently.

This phenomenon was described by Festinger and his co-investigators as a type of cognitive dissonance, which occurs under specific circumstances:

1. The belief must be held with deep conviction and be relevant to the believer’s actions or behavior.

2. The belief must have produced actions that are difficult to undo.

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and concerned with the real world such that it can be clearly disconfirmed.

4. The disconfirmatory evidence must be recognized by the believer.

5. The believer must have social support from other believers.

So to create the increased fervor, the members of the group must actually recognize that the evidence is against them. The social support of the other believers is crucial to the continuance of faith in what has clearly been disproven.

So, let’s apply this to those that myself and other authors here on the ‘Kog often find ourselves at odds with: Tea Partiers, religious fanatics, Conservatives, conservatives (note size of ‘c’), climate/evolution/science deniers, racists, alt med zealots, and so on. Our frustration in large part comes not from the fact that people have a particular belief; that’s their right in a democracy and none of us would have it any other way. The frustration arises (for me, at least) from the individuals’ dogged adherence to beliefs and customs that have been clearly shown through evidence to be non-productive, simply false, or even patently absurd – no amount of discussion or clarification will budge them from their metaphoric hilltops. As long as they have the security of knowing that others share their beliefs, they can cover themselves in that fact as with a warm blanket and weather any storms we may visit upon them.

Kinda makes you think, don’t it? Considering this over the past few days, I have recognized my own tendency to dig my heels in and push when encountering opposition; recognized also my quite literal anger at people who refuse to change their minds despite whatever evidence I may bring to bear. I have realized that I will quite clearly never change their minds or cause them to alter their behaviour one bit, just as their arguments won’t change me in the least. Engaging with the zealot on his own terms requires you to become a zealot, to attack the individual and react emotionally to the ‘ignorance’ you must crusade against. I have personally seen this in myself, and walked away grumbling from my computer, my day ruined by my ideological opposite number who has drawn me into reacting emotionally.

But, no more – evidence is evidence, and truth is truth despite some people’s objections to it. Some acts are just and some are unjust, and some ideologies deserve the time and energy that can be committed to teaching and learning different perspectives… And some, as much as my brain craves closure and victory, are not. The secret to creating and maintaining an online persona that carries some weight and the appearance of validity, as I see it, is recognizing the difference. Some people cannot and will not be convinced, so wasting the effort to try is folly. So, I shall no longer feed the trolls. I expect my blood pressure will be better overall as a result.

If you are so motivated, I’d love to hear some discussion of your experiences in the comments. I want this to be the start of a great conversation, not the end.


On condoms and omnibus bills

October 25, 2013

Just like when using a condom, it’s good policy to check any omnibus bill for holes before using them. That is, unless you are our current government who expect Parliament to not fully examine the details of its vast omnibus budget bill until after it becomes law.

That important undisclosed elements of the bill refer to civil service contracts under the purview of Tony “We Totally Needed That Gazebo And Fake Pond” Clement is rich.


A (re-)Introduction

October 24, 2013

We live in interesting, but not unprecedented political times. Darth Harper, the Controller-in-Chief, has done an admiral job of keeping things quiet, but the fruits of his autocratic nature are ripening quickly. The Senate expenditure scandal exposed that he vetted his appointments about as vigorously as John McCain’s campaign committee did when looking at Sarah Palin. And, as we’ve seen in the past, when control freaks get into real trouble, they deal with it by covering the problem up.  In order to make it seem like he didn’t make a mistake in appointing his CTV lapdogs, Harper has been caught either orchestrating or participating in a cover-up. (I’m being as charitable as I can here, obviously.)

Ottawa is starting to get that late-80’s stink when things started to finally stick to Brian Mulroney. You can tell that Harper feels it, public opinion polls express it, the National Post feels it, hell, even the Blogging Tories seem to be beginning to feel it. All that is left is to nominate a woman to be Canada’s second Prime Minister and inevitable fall girl. (Or maybe the end of this government will see the nation’s first gay PM?)

The demise of the Conservative Party is unfortunately not a foregone conclusion, as it still garners an unseemly support in the more self-entitled regions of the country. With an electorate split among three, four, or five parties that can be expected to take a sizable portion of the electorate in any given riding, thirty percent is all you really need in many places.

And what else is different is that it is not the political right that is Balkanized, it’s now the centre and left.

This presents a question: how best to get rid of this government?

In my heart of hearts, I’m a lefty liberal, but the Liberal party has never appealed to me. I’ve always seen them as liberal in name only, more of a financial party with ties to big banks, insurance companies and other people’s money, campaigning on the left and governing in the mushy middle. Because of that, I’ve traditionally voted either Green or NDP, the latter most often. However, having seen our Nova Scotia NDP party turn into an amalgam of all the dull ideas ever thought up by Liberals or Conservatives, party affiliation is less of an issue and more than ever up for grabs.

The next election is for me above all about getting rid of Darth Harper and his gang. That might mean hitching up to the momentum of the newly rejuvenated Liberal Party, or maybe backing the federal NDP, for whom Thomas Mulcair has done an admiral job (in my opinion) as Opposition Leader. I haven’t got a sense yet what the Young Trudeau actually believes in, so I’m hesitant. I know he’s in favour of marijuana legalization, but that tells me only that he wants to get out (and win) the young vote in the next election.  It’s a throw-away promise that will be put off and put off as one more important issue after another come up. I’d like to know where he stands on those important issues. Issues like the dramatically increasing wealth disparity, global warming, corporate taxation, fiscal policy, etc. I’m all for legalizing pot, but a promise of it is not enough to win my vote.  (A bag of weed on election day, well that’s another story…)

I’m open for convincing in almost any direction (almost!) and am hoping these pages will provide some guidance.


I’m coining a new word

October 24, 2013

Well, a new hyphenated word, really.

base-whisperer

This refers to someone who knows how to communicate to his or her political base, and forms all of their communication and political maneuvering around the whims of said base, no matter how wrong or uninformed that communication or politics happens to be. Harper is of course a shining example of this, but I’m sure it can be applied to any Conservative when they speak against, well, anything that would/could be considered bad by the base. Rob Anders on drug rehabilitation, for example. Any Teabagger Republican anytime they open their mouths (I’m not sure if they are base-whispering, or if they really are as stupid as they seem. It’s a tough call.). Various attacks on unnamed immigrants, especially those of non-European stock. Uninformed screeds about why those Aboriginal peoples just can’t govern themselves. You get the idea.

Of course, this all gets thrust into an uncomfortable light with the claims that Mike Duffy made this week. Specifically:

“It’s not about what you did,” he quoted Harper as saying. “It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base.”

Briguy


It’s Just a Small Change

October 23, 2013

We’re trying to start this blog up again. To that end here’s a quick proposal. I propose that in light of recent Senate scandal allegations, and frankly, everything else we know about Stephen Harper’s behaviour, that the title of Prime Minister be changed to Darth for the duration of the Reform Party CPC’s time in office.  All in favour say aye.


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